DNC: Hack on Voter Database Was a False Alarm

The headquarters of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) / Getty Images
August 23, 2018

The Democratic National Committee said Thursday that what it originally thought was a hacking attempt on its voter database turned out to be a false alarm.

The DNC informed the FBI on Tuesday of what it believed to be a "phishing" attack by an outside party, in which Democratic staffers would be tricked into giving over their log-in credentials by means of a phony online portal, the Washington Post reports. However, an official said it appeared to be a simulated test to examine the vulnerabilities of its VoteBuilder database.

On Thursday morning, DNC Chief Security Officer Bob Lord reversed course. "We, along with the partners who reported the [fake] site, now believe it was built by a third party as part of a simulated phishing test on VoteBuilder," he said in a statement.

"The test, which mimicked several attributes of actual attacks on the Democratic party’s voter file, was not authorized by the DNC, VoteBuilder nor any of our vendors," he said.

"The party took the necessary precautions to ensure that sensitive data critical to candidates and state parties across the country was not compromised," Lord added. "There are constant attempts to hack the DNC and our Democratic infrastructure, and while we are extremely relieved that this wasn’t an attempted intrusion by a foreign adversary, this incident is further proof that we need to continue to be vigilant in light of potential attacks."

The Michigan Democratic Party requested the test be conducted and did not notify the national committee in advance of the test, according to a person familiar with the incident.

Russian hackers gained access to DNC emails in 2016 and gave them to WikiLeaks, which then released the emails for reporters and the public to read during the Democratic National Convention. Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russians for their role in the DNC hacking.

The emails proved politically explosive, as they showed party leaders up to then-DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz working to undercut the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) in favor of Hillary Clinton. Wasserman Schultz, who continues to serve as a U.S. representative from Florida, and several top officials resigned in the wake of the controversy.